The Hindu

EC norms will not ensure free polls: Cong.

Election panel asked for suggestion­s from the Opposition but ignored them, says K.C. Venugopal

- Special Correspond­ent

The Congress on Friday said that the Election Commission (EC) guidelines to conduct polls during the pandemic do not meet the norms of “free, fair and independen­t elections” and asserted that the poll panel failed in its "basic constituti­onal obligation".

The party called upon the EC to revisit the recommenda­tions made by the party and invite all political parties for a comprehens­ive discussion in a transparen­t and effective manner.

“In case the ECI falters in this bounden duty the consequenc­es for democracy would be catastroph­ic,” All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary K.C. Venugopal said in a statement. He said the EC guidelines could not ensure the conduct of elections in “free, non-partisan and fair fashion without giving undue advantage to the ruling party”.

Questions raised

“The ECI guidelines clearly fail these principal tests thereby negating the constituti­onal obligation of ‘superinten­dence and control of elections’ in a non-partisan and unbiased manner. The simple question to ponder over is, if the very foundation of democracy i.e. our elections cannot be conducted fairly, how will adult franchise and majority mandate, the lifeblood of our democracy, be effectivel­y upheld?” he asked .

“The ECI’s guidelines say the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code will be invoked against anyone who violates the said guidelines. However, the ECI has surprising­ly missed the potential for abuse by the Ruling Party which controls the policing machinery. For example, where members of a crowd in a political gathering violate the rules, how does the ECI ensure that the candidate will be indemnifie­d from unjust penalty or harassment?” asked the Congress general secretary.

He said though the poll panel sought the views of the political parties such as the Congress, their suggestion­s were ignored.

For example, the principal Opposition party had suggested not to use to electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the fear of infections but the EC ignored it. Similarly, the EC has not made any distinctio­n between urban and rural areas that have had very different trajectory in terms of spread of COVID-19. “The ECI must provide for detailed guidelines and not leave the safety and well-being of the voters to the differing interpreta­tions and largess of local authoritie­s,” he said.

 ??  ?? K.C. Venugopal
K.C. Venugopal

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